The most popular Harley-Davidson motorcycle in India after its entry-level range, the Street, is the Fat Boy. Harley-Davidson recently gave the Fat Boy a shot of steroids along with a new heart. With more muscles and a heart transplant, the 2018 Fat Boy comes with a bunch of other noticeable updates making it a more appealing and capable machine than its predecessor.
We had the new Fat Boy to ourselves for a few days to experience the motorcycle’s latest avatar and here’s what we thought.
Design and appearance:
Changes in the motorcycle are evident at first glance, providing it with an almost all-new look. Ditching the regular round headlamp, the front gets a sculpted chrome nacelle for the new headlight. This is perhaps the most appealing change which gives it a more masculine appeal while the new LED headlamp with daytime running light add a smart and modern touch. The front fork tubes also get new tin can covers to support the headlamp nacelle.
The big teardrop-shaped 19-litre fuel tank is probably the only body part which has been retained directly from the predecessor. The instrument cluster continues to sit on the top of the fuel tank, however, the unit has been reworked for a smarter and more informative functionality. The big analog speedometer dial now gets a bigger LCD screen that offers odometer, trip meters, range and gear position indicator among the other gauges. The info can be easily toggled using a switch on the left side of the handlebar which is upraised and wide like before.
The rear fender has been chopped down and you will not see any dedicated tail lamp either. That’s right, there is not any separate tail lamp in the 2018 Fat Boy. However, the rear LED turn indicators double-up as the tail lamp. This trimming has been done to provide an unrestricted view of the fatter 240mm wide rear tyre which makes it the meanest boy in the Harley-Davidson range. The bike also gets a 160mm tyre at the front which is the widest piece of rubber ever used at the front of a production Harley.
The bike continues to get solid disc (Lakester) aluminium wheels but with an all-new design which looks much better than the previous ones. The new engine gets a satin-chrome finish which looks more premium than the pure chrome and the dual exhaust pipes also get a new bespoke shape.
Like its predecessor, the bike continues with the traditional hardtail look with a hidden rear suspension. The previous generation Fat Boy was already popular for its looks and styling, and the 2018 model further uplifts the standards.
Engine and transmission:
At the heart of the 2018 Softail Fat Boy is the new Milwaukee-Eight 107 V-twin which is slightly bigger and much more advanced than the old Twin Cam 103 V-twin. The new 1,753cc engine produces 144Nm of torque at 3,000rpm. The improvements are noticeable as the mid-range as well as the top-end now feels significantly stronger than before.
The company has also worked on the fueling which is more responsive now and the new gearbox has also been designed for faster acceleration. The Fat Boy is definitely not a light motorcycle but the speedometer needle still moves from 0-100kmph in 4-5 seconds. Cruising at three digit speeds is a breeze and the ride quality is more pleasurable as the new engine is judder free.
The new motor is extremely refined and has much lower vibrations as compared to the previous generation. The motor is lighter than the previous one and uses a higher compression ratio to deliver a better fuel economy. After riding the bike in different conditions, we received a combined efficiency of around 14kmpl which is quite satisfactory for a bike with such a big engine and weighing at over 300kg.
The Milwaukee-Eight is again an air-cooled engine, however, it gets a new ‘precision oil cooling’ which is advanced than the conventional oil cooling systems and also evacuates access hear from the valves. The heat management is significantly better than that of the previous generation engines which makes the bike quite manageable even in the heavy city traffic. The final drive remains a silent belt type one which is always appreciated for transferring torque from the gearbox to the rear wheel flawlessly.
Riding and handling:
The new design of the seat definitely looks sleeker but it is as comfortable and feels as plush as before. The riding position is completely upright and one can ride the Fat Boy continuously for hours.
The bikes in the Softail family, including the Fat Boy, gets an all-new frame which is lighter and stiffer than the previous one. Thanks to the much lower vibrations of the new engine, it is also mounted on the frame directly as a stressed member. The overall weight reduction of around 16kg and enhanced rigidity helps in improving the high speed and cornering stability of the motorcycle while the reduced rake (by a degree) further makes it nimble than before in quick turns.
The rear monoshock is tuned well and is further adjustable for damping and preload values according to the payload or the rider’s weight. The adjustments can be easily done using a knob and you don’t need to use any kind of tool for that. The setup provides a plush ride quality but Harley, this time, has managed to reduce the chassis wobbling due to the soft suspension. So, the new Fat Boy offers an overall smooth ride with a better high speed and cornering confidence.
The beastie tyres never let you short of grip on the tarmac but the low ground clearance is a problem and doesn’t negotiate bumps and rough patches well. In fact, while going over big speed breakers the lower chassis tends to brush. The low mounted front foot boards further restrict the lean angle while cornering but that is something the Fat Boy is not meant to do as well.
The braking system gives a better feedback and the ABS also provides confidence when you have to use it aggressively. However, it is not that easy to stop a bike weighing over 300kg and the bite still has scope for improvement.
The 2018 Harley Davidson Fat Boy is definitely a looker with great road presence and it looks much more premium than its predecessor. The bike offers a high level of detailing along with that custom feel with the fattest ever tyres used in a Harley. The company is offering the new Fat Boy in India with a starting price tag of Rs 17.51 lakh (ex-showroom) which is much lower than the starting price of the Indian Chief range while costlier than the Triumph Thunderbird Storm.
The improvements are not only visual but one can feel them while riding the bike as well. The ride quality and performance is much better than before and it perfectly justifies the purpose of owning a motorcycle in the respective segment. There are a few minor things which still have room for improvement with a little work.